I grew up a privileged child. My parents always provided for me, and I never knew any form of financial insecurity. I remember my dad sitting in his recliner chair at night watching CNN and worrying about the markets, but I never lacked for anything important. He worked hard and, as a result, his law practice always persevered.
When my brother and I approached upper elementary school, my mom went back to school and earned her Master’s degree. She then continued her career teaching at Cardinal Newman High School. She says that she teaches because it is her vocation, but I am savvy enough to realize that her paycheck also allowed me to graduate from college free of debt.
My parents are planners. They are providers. As an adult, I can look back and see that they made sacrifices so that I could pursue my dreams. Twenty years later, I want that same thing for my own children.
Today, I worry about the markets looking at a computer screen instead of on a television but my face gets the same little crinkle in between my eyes that I used to see on my dad’s face. I can now empathize with his worries of making a payroll, running a personal business, managing risk, and never losing sight of the responsibility to provide for my own family.
There are days when I am tremendously proud of my professional accomplishments. There are days that I am scared to death that my hard work may not be enough. Even though I believe that it is my vocation to care for cattle and raise beef, financial sustainability is never far from my mind. It has to be—my farm is a business that must be able to endure.
Historically, raising cattle and growing beef is commodity based where supply and demand determine the price for the end product. I believe that the single largest driver toward my financial sustainability is building demand. The ability for me to endure requires that someone wants to purchase my beef at a price that will allow me to pay my bills and also provide for my family.
Building demand for beef from a farm in rural Nebraska is no easy task. Cattle outnumber people 4 to 1 in my beloved Cornhusker State, so most of my customers live far away. Growing beef is also a very capital intensive and heavily regulated business. There are many obstacles to direct marketing and also to attaining the vertical collaboration that I believe is so critical to long term financial sustainability.
Last week I took a major step toward achieving my dreams of building beef demand through quality. I have known for a long time that accomplishing this would require partners and collaboration—my small feed yard in rural Nebraska does not produce enough volume of beef to surpass the challenges of building a brand or a demand for my specific product.
I am incredibly proud of my new alliance with the Beef Marketing Group and am excited to enter into a new phase of learning and development. My focus on quality will prevail and strengthen as I pool my ideas with a great group of cattlemen. I have always led with my heart, and today still believe that the things that feel right lead to success.
I have faith that this new venture with BMG and Progressive Beef will help me to accomplish my goals of continuous improvement in animal welfare and food safety. It will also help me to further develop a relationship with all of you wonderful people that choose to celebrate your lives over a delicious beef meal.
As I worked these past few weeks to complete the alliance with BMG, I frequently thought of my dad and how he always taught me to persevere while also staying true to my values. Today I am smiling knowing that I have made him proud while also offering the same example to my daughters.